23 years ago, I was moving to Singapore! Many things were more difficult here for new arrivals – for starters, there wasn’t an easy option when it came ot opening a bank account. But I’m happy to say that many things are a lot easier now, even if there’s a bit more terminology to learn. With banks, for example, you need to know your PayNow from your PayLah! Some things haven’t changed, like all the acronyms; they were very popular back then, and – as we’ll see below – they still are! If you’re already living here or about to move here, you’ll want to know the best bank accounts for easy setups, plus a few pointers to get you started.
Learning the lingo
On moving to Singapore you’ll notice many common terms are acronyms or abbreviated. You’ll learn to listen hard to the taxi driver, and you’ll get to know your “PIE” from your “ECP” (both expressways) – even if you have a Maps app on your phone. In fact, these can be confusing because they pronounce things differently again; instead of saying “P-I-E” it says “pie”! The pronunciation of the Tampines Expressway, or TPE, cracks me up every time. But we won’t go into that; you’ll have to listen yourself.
You’ll also need to know your EP from your DP (Employment and Dependant’s Pass) when you’re talking to your HR. And know your “kopi” from your “kaya” (local coffee and jam) at the hawker centre. Hawker centres shouldn’t be missed, by the way – they are the soul of Singapore!
Then there’s the tendency to add “lah” to the end of sentences: “How are you, lah?” “Good, lah” – or, “I’ll have the carrot cake – spicy and dark, lah”. That last one is what you say if you want a deep-fried turnip dish, one of my favourites at hawker centres. (If you ask for the dark version, it means it has way more sauce than is good for you…).
Singpass is another special Singapore term; it stands for “Singapore Personal Access”. It allows you to transact with over 60 government agencies online easily and securely. You can do everything from tracking your income tax to paying parking fines. It makes things very easy!
What you need to know about opening a bank account in Singapore
Luckily, you don’t have to wait for your Singpass to be set up before you open a DBS bank account using the DBS digibank app. (DBS is another well-known acronym, by the way: the Development Bank of Singapore.) This is good news for new expats in Singapore. You’ll have lots to get used at the start – the first few months are a whirl, especially if you have kids, as you set up your home and get the school routine going. Having all your finance, transfers, overseas mortgage payments and anything else you need together in a mobile app is a huge benefit. You don’t want to be worried about having a bank account set up for your salary to go into either!
DBS has made moving to Singapore and opening a bank account in Singapore a lot quicker (it’s instant!) and easier. If you’ve found an apartment, you can even book in your electricity and water options – known as utilities here – through the DBS Utilities Marketplace.
Opening your bank account instantly
Gone are ‘my days’ when we had to visit a branch, queue and go through paperwork just to open a bank account. You can now open one instantly on the DBS digibank app, and get your DBS Starter Bundle on the DBS digibank app, anytime and, more importantly, from anywhere. Plus, DBS is the first bank in Singapore to enable foreigners to be onboarded instantly.
There’s a full suite of banking products available on the app, from current and savings accounts, debit and credit cards and foreign currency remit. You can pay bills, exchange currencies, invest globally and perform overseas funds transfers with zero fees. Plus shop, invest and save in 13 currencies, with no FX conversion fees.
The DBS digibank app also allows you to track monthly spending; so, you can see how much you’ve spent on utilities and taxes, and what you’ve transferred, without having to do anything extra.
Knowing your PayNow from your PayLah!
When it comes to banking in Singapore, these two little words (and apps) will make your life much simpler. And both are available with the DBS Starter Bundle.
PayNow, available on a DBS digibank app, allows payments to either a phone number, an NRIC (Singapore identification number) or a special UEN number (usually linked to a business). All regular monthly bill payments can be set up and saved here too – rent, utilities, school fees, insurance and so on. It’s really easy!
PayLah! is specific to DBS Bank, and takes just a flick of a QR code for cabs, cafes – even ice cream parlours! There are rewards at certain merchants for using it, and offers on travel insurance if you pay for trips by using it. It’s all contactless, and accepted at a whopping 180,000 points and more in Singapore!
Students under 16 can also use PayLah! – it’s a good way of giving them some independence without the risk of them losing their cash (or racking up your credit card…)
More about DBS’s Starter Bundles
You can get a full suite of banking services by signing up for a starter bundle on the digibank app. That means you can start saving, investing, spending, remitting funds and more, instantly. Plus, as I mentioned, you can sign up with or without Singpass – the journey is easy and quick either way.
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Set up your new bank account in Singapore here!
Want to know more about moving to Singapore, Expat Living has heaps of new articles every month, and core information about eating out and where to live here.